In high school, I was deeply enamored of theater. I obsessed over becoming an Actress (please read that word with a hint of a pretentious British accent henceforth). I was quite talented, actually, and had some good training from instructors who were passionate about their craft. Through method acting and Meisnerian techniques, I learned how to truly lose myself in another character. While on one hand this allowed me empathetic access to a range of emotions and experiences I probably wouldn't have naturally had as a teenager, it also enabled me to become an exceptionally adept liar.
I was fully capable of lying to my parents, my teachers, anyone to whom it was convenient to tell a falsehood rather than the truth. From the innocuous to the blatant, I could deceive with ease. The (retrospectively) disturbing part was that I had no qualm nor guilt over these deceptions.
Along the path of lying and the finding characters other than myself in which to be immersed, I sometimes lost track of how I REALLY felt about things going on in my daily life. Stimulus would occur, I would react as though followed at all times by a camera, react as I thought my audience would expect. Almost as if I were a reality tv star playing a role but having to maintain that role constantly.
It was confusing. It was exhausting. Keeping lies straight and keeping appearances up, various fronts to the world leaving a shell underneath, completely baffled as to who I really was and how I really felt about anything.
Interestingly the act was dropped only during the summers when I attended a residential camp, and when I went to Hawaii on trips with my family. I was just open and honest in those places, didn't put on a show and just WAS. I loved those places, and I loved being real.
When I hit a wall in the acting, I had a kind of realization. Being an Actress, to me, meant losing who I truly was in favor of becoming a malleable shell to please others.
I dropped acting entirely, and along with it I dropped the lies. I adopted complete honesty and openness. It left me raw and vulnerable a lot of the time, and yet it felt so much stronger than the shell I had been occupying for years. I still had some relapses, due in part to youthful ineptitude and in part to continued insecurity.
A pivotal moment occurred when I realized I lost a romantic relationship over a lie I'd told. The lie wasn't malicious, but was in fact told to protect my own emotions and vulnerability, but it resulted in an inaccurate perception of my personality, values, and value of the relationship. I believe that one lie altered my path dramatically, and it is a moment I can pinpoint as a deep regret.
Over years I have noticed that my (at times radical) honesty can cause problems as well, but I'd rather have problems stemming from overt honesty than living easier with any degree of deceit. Honesty has a gravity to it, drawing me closer, increasing the value I see in others who also maintain honest, up front, genuine interactions.
At the same time, my job forces me to interact with practiced habitual liars, thus my patience for liars outside my job is nonexistent. Friends who lie or withhold truth are dropped from my life without a second glance. Ulterior motivations and subterfuge have no place in my life, nor (I aspire) in the lives of those I choose as companions.
There are several people I recognize in my life who are as direct as I, and I cherish their presence whenever I am around them. There is an ease of interaction, an inherent trust and bond that seems to occur between myself and these people, and I have grown addicted to the heightened sense of understanding I enjoy when around them. It is a simple pleasure, but all-encompassing.
Likewise, the places where even as a child I was completely open to life and the world, my camp and my island are sacred to me. Return to either location always feels like coming home, and there is no comfort deeper than that simple contentment.